Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the recent release of your film, Dare to Be Wild, through Netflix! What inspired you to bring this story to life?
Vivienne De Courcy: I think a big question for filmmakers is what kind of ideas are we going to cultivate through our art. A good friend advised me to start with another script I’d written of the "dark, edgy, quirky, and twisted" variety – the kind of story which has dominated the film world for almost twenty years. Being a contrarian, I chose to make a beautiful, inspirational romance - so far so good. It seems the film has been a breath of fresh air for audiences.
As filmmakers, we must frequently fly in the face of convention, be brave and be original. The five-star ratings on Amazon for the film pretty much prove that audiences are starved for sunbursts of color, romance, as well as "mission." I believe that films which elevate the human spirit and inspire creative interaction with audiences can illuminate solutions for humanity. And I make no apologies for this.
BD: The film serves not only as a romantic adventure but also as an inspiring environmental journey. What do you hope that viewers will take away from the film?
VDC: I would love audiences to feel that they don’t have to wait for laws to take back individual power over their own environment. Long ago in Ireland, there was a fashion among the ancient farmers to keep a corner of their fields uncut at harvest time – a refuge for small native animals and plants – it was known as the "Hare’s Corner," and the ancient farmers believed it was for luck. Those ancient farmers were throwing a lifeline to the wilderness, and this really interested me.
Having spent fifteen years living in a Chicago high-rise, I craved the wild landscape of my ancestors and managed to buy a small hill farm on the south west coast of Ireland. I wrote a design brief for the garden which found "wild" landscape designer Mary Reynolds. She told me her extraordinary story: She was the youngest-ever winner of the Chelsea Flower Show – the Olympics of Garden design; she won with a pioneering"‘wild" garden, the Celtic Sanctuary; a place to protect the true spirit of the earth; a place of serenity for one’s own spirit. The core message of Dare to be Wild is that in respect to our world, "we can protect what is left, and re-generate what is lost" in that little space we control ourselves – our own gardens. I am thrilled to hear from audiences, as the film has made its way around the world, that people are inspired to create wild gardens, or even clover lawns – which support bees, only need to be cut once a year, and don’t need toxic chemicals.
BD: You have quite a talented cast and crew working on the production. What can you tell us about their creative process in bringing the film to life?
VDC: I was determined to make a film full of light and sunbursts in direct contrast to the "grey or blue" filters so often considered fashionably "gritty and cool." I wanted audiences to feel “landscape" – literally to experience wild nature as a character in the story. People travel the world over to have this experience – I wanted audiences to believe they could easily have mini-wild landscapes in their own back yard. My wonderful cinematographer, Cathal Waters, and I storyboarded the whole film which is shot on location in Ireland, Ethiopia, and London’s Chelsea.
We had to re-create the "wild" in Mary’s garden on a tight production schedule. It’s not a job for typical landscapers. So, we had the same crew of botanist builders, including the "real" Christy Collard from Future Forests who had built Mary’s Chelsea competition garden fourteen years prior in three weeks. For Dare to be Wild they built the Celtic Sanctuary in ten days and became actors in their own story. Then, we stripped back the stone walls and plant elements from perfection to build for seven different time frames to fit the script.
In Ethiopia, the deep spirituality of the chanting priests in the temple sequence brought the whole hardened Irishman crew to tears. The whole crew climbed to the top of a 12,000-ft. sacred mountain to get the specific shot where Mary described having a vision of the forests coming back across the desert…it was worth every step.
BD: Dare to Be Wild has received critical acclaim as the winner of the Audience Award for best narrative feature at Dublin International Film Festival. How would you describe your experience with audience reactions to the film thus far?
VDC: Audience reactions have been fantastic world-wide. Once they see it – they get it. Young men, to my surprise, love it, as they identify with environmentalist Christy Collard played with such sexy subtlety by Tom Hughes (Victoria.)
I think there are films, even great films, which entertain us but which we forget as soon as we leave the theatre, and then there are films which stay with us a lifetime…it’s my hope that Dare to be Wild will be one of latter – watched multiple times.
BD: How has the film been most impactful to you as a creator?
VDC: It took ten years – about the length of time it takes a sapling to grow into a tree – to make Dare to be Wild. It was an uphill battle to buck the trend for "dark and edgy." I wanted to make an Italian-style film in Ireland – which is pretty much the school of "realism," some great dark comedy and niche. I felt there was another "real" world – the real wild world. The conventional risks involved in super-saturated color, environmental theme, and high romance – were obvious from the get-go and the critical politics of current "cool" stacked against us. But not so with audiences and, happily, not so the Netflix algorithm. I believe a film can be beautiful and inspirational – and romance doesn’t have to be dark.
The impact from a creative standpoint is I now have two films and a Netflix-type series in development - all three Italian and U.S. based. None are dark mafia stories (much as I love them). These stories have strong female protagonists, as well as strong male protagonists. Am thrilled to make Italian films in Italy. What did I personally learn from this – follow your instincts and buck trends – but don’t think for one second it’s going to be easy. Once you make that mental adjustment, your creative engine kicks in and you keep driving - fourteen hours a day.
BD: Are there any other upcoming films or projects that you would care to share with our readers?
VDC: I am working on a sci-fi epic I wrote 15 years ago, based on GAIA theory, which is now more current than ever. After I met landscape designer Mary Reynolds, Dare to be Wild became the first part in this environmental epic series. The script is written, and we are currently working on a graphic novel version which will, I hope, like Dare to be Wild, illuminate some solutions for humanity – this time by scaring us in the way Alien or Blade Runner did.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about Dare to Be Wild?
VDC: Here is an irony for you: Movies that dwell on dark dystopia allow audiences to ignore the genuine catastrophes that threaten our world – the consequences of our own human folly: the loss of habitat, of wilderness, of a divers and life-sustaining environment which is why I chose to make a romantic adventure story about re-wilding as a first feature. The core theme behind Dare to be Wild is that every garden – from window box to city park – can support a thriving eco-system – but we, all of us, have to act, each in his own way.
Fans who are interested should buy Mary Reynold’s book, Garden Awakening, which is available on Amazon. It’s the bible of "forest gardening." Her book also lends insight in the spiritual side of Mary’s unusually deeply earth-connected persona. People are desperate to bring wild nature back into their lives. That’s why a walk by a forest river is so revitalizing. Fans can see Mary’s beautifully composed nature photography on Instagram at wildmarymary (worthy of another book) or my own diary of location/scene record boards in Italy and elsewhere on Instagram at vivdecourcy. If you see Dare to be Wild on Netflix, leave comments or questions on Twitter (@DareWild), and we will get back to you.